Robert Gardner (anthropologist)

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Robert Gardner
Born Robert Grosvenor Gardner
(1925-11-05)November 5, 1925
Brookline, Massachusetts
Died June 21, 2014(2014-06-21) (aged 88)
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Occupation Academic, Anthropologist, Documentarian
Nationality United States
Period 1951-2000
Notable works Dead Birds
Forest of Bliss
Spouse Adele Pressman ( - his death)
Children five; six grandchildren
Relatives Amy Lowell
James Russell Lowell
Charles Russell Lowell III
Robert Traill Spence Lowell
Charles Russell Lowell, Sr.
Robert Lowell

Robert Grosvenor Gardner (November 5, 1925 – June 21, 2014) was an American academic, anthropologist, and documentary filmmaker who was the Director of the Film Study Center at Harvard University from 1956 to 1997. Starting in 1950s, he is known for his work in the field of visual anthropology and films like Dead Birds, and Forest of Bliss. In 2011, a retrospective of his work was held at Film Forum, New York.[1]


He was the sixth child and third son, born in the home of his grandmother Isabella Stewart Gardner.[2] He was a cousin of poet Robert Lowell.[3]

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Harvard University in 1947, he became an assistant to the founder of the Byzantine Institute of America, Thomas Whittemore at Harvard's Fogg Museum. This led to travels to Anatolia, Fayum and London working with Coptic textiles and restoring Byzantine art Next, he started teaching medieval art and history at the College of Puget Sound in Washington state. Here, he took to writings of anthropologist Ruth Benedict and he ended up post doing MA in anthropology from Harvard. It was during his graduation period that he took part in an expedition on Kalahari Desert Bushmen, for which he took photographs, films and carried out elementary research work. Thereafter he founded The Film Study Center, a production and research unit at the Peabody Museum at Harvard in 1957. Here it made documentary films till he left the centre in 1997.[4]

He lived in Cambridge, MA with wife, Adele Pressman, a psychiatrist, and two children Caleb and Noah Gardner.[4]

The Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology now gives the Harvard University's 'Robert Gardner Fellowship in Photography' worth $US50,000 [5]


Related filmmakers[edit]


  • Gardner, Robert. 2006. The Impulse to Preserve: Reflections of a Filmmaker. Other Press.
  • The Cinema of Robert Gardner, by Ilisa Barbash, Lucien Taylor. Berg, 2007. ISBN 1845207742.
  • Harry Tomicek. 1991 Gardner Oesterreichisches Filmuseum. (In German)


External links[edit]